Offensive coordinator/line coach Jim Chaney said he won't pigeonhole himself into any one position in spring camp. Rather, the former Purdue Boilermakers offensive coordinator who tutored current NFL quarterbacks Drew Brees and Kyle Orton, among others, wants to cover as much ground as possible.
"A little bit everywhere. I can't really tell you where I'm going to be a little bit heavy right now. I'm going to put out fires throughout the spring wherever I feel like I'm needed at," said Chaney. "First and foremost, I'm going to be around that offensive line with coach (Mitch) Browning and coach (James) Cregg and getting them situated. I feel like if we get the line stable, we can work on the other stuff in the backfield. But I don't want to go the other way. Let's get the line of scrimmage cleaned up first."
Chaney, however, will work as closely as possible with quarterbacks coach David Reaves and the Vols' signal-callers, participating in meetings and being as hands-on as possible.
"Certainly, I will," he said.
With Chaney's long and decorated football resume', he believes exceptional quarterbacks oftentimes illustrate as much almost immediately.
"Yeah, first game. First game (Brees) ever played for us was against Ed and the guys at USC, one of those preseason classics. He started as a sophomore, first game he ever started was out there. You could see it, you could see it as the game went on," Chaney said. "His ability to create enthusiasm with his teammates and his ability to move the ball down the field. He was special. You could just see it. There was an aura about him that was so obvious my mother even noticed it for goodness sake."
What did Chaney think?
"Oh yeah, I said my mortgage is going to be paid for," Chaney recalled.
A former Central Missouri nose tackle who most recently served as an assistant coach for the NFL‘s St. Louis Rams, Chaney has reserved judgment on current Vols -- particularly quarterbacks Jonathan Crompton and B.J. Coleman -- and believes Tennessee's new offense is conducive to learning.
"I want to judge them on their own. And we've got time to do that. I don't have to go do it here tomorrow," Chaney said. "I think so, I believe there's a good learning situation here as far as methodology of teaching this offense. It seems very simple to me. I picked it up, and I'm a pig farmer from Missouri, so what the hell? If I can get it, I'd say about anybody could."
McNeil sees Douglas' potential
Senior center Josh McNeil has seen plenty of talented football players since arriving in Knoxville four years ago and starting every Tennessee game since the 2006 Memphis contest.
So it's with a veteran's savvy that McNeil projects a promising future on the offensive line for redshirt freshman Aaron Douglas. The Vols' most-decorated member of its 2008 recruiting class as a four-star tight end, Douglas has begun the transition to offensive tackle for UT's thinned-out front.
"What is he, 6-6, 275 right now? And he basically eats crackers in the morning and salads for lunch, just to try to stay at that tight end weight, that's what he was trying to do," McNeil said. "Now that he's really starting to eat, he could be 6-6 and over 300 pounds and still be really athletic. He's got a really God-given, blessed body to play offensive tackle. I know his family real well, and it's just like his dad (David Douglas, former UT and NFL offensive lineman) had. It's in his genes."
Close friends with Douglas even before the move, McNeil said he now will assist his teammate in any way possible to ease the transition.
"I remember he called me talking about the transition, and the biggest thing for him is just getting down the techniques of the pass sets," McNeil said. "As an offensive tackle, you've got to block that rush end. He hasn't really done too much of that and didn't get too much work last year because had that shoulder surgery. So my thing is just to be there and mainly help him with the playbook. The coaches will get him ready technique-wise. I just want to be there to help him, be his friend and help with any technique questions or questions overall."
Improving play at the tackle position is a point of emphasis for Kiffin and the Vols moving forward.
"We have to get better. They are doing ok. We will continue to work on it and get better," said the first-year head coach. "We have a ways to go there. Right now we are better in the run game up front than the pass game and that's ok, because that is what we have emphasized right now."
Warren transitioning well
Junior Brandon Warren doesn't view his move from under-utilized tight end of a year ago to wide receiver as any great change.
"I don't even think it's a big transition. It's more just being kind of isolated and stuff, standing up and not having to deal with D-ends and linebackers," said the former Alcoa Mr. Football winner. "I like that, so I'm very excited about it."
Chaney saw Warren in workouts earlier this winter and marveled at the 6-foot-2, 214-pounder's skill set.
"I saw Brandon in drills in winter workouts have an incredible suddenness and a fantastic athlete that was not 235 pounds, 240 pounds," said UT‘s offensive coordinator. "He just looked like an outside receiver to me, more than a tight end, and I agree with coach Kiffin's assessment of moving him to wide receiver whole-heartedly."
All it took for Kiffin and Chaney to endorse the move, Chaney explained, saw seeing the former Freshman All-America tight end at Florida State in workouts.
"These eyes. When coach sees it. I didn't know Brandon Warren from Adam when I got here," Chaney said. "I just saw a kid running around that wasn't as big as Stocker or Cottam, but he was in the tight end group. And you think, ‘Well, I've seen that. I've had some really good tight ends who were 6-2.' But he just seemed really sudden and really quick and had some of the skills we're looking for outside. So let's move this kid and see what he can do outside."
Warren expects the move to help him showcase some of the traits that enabled him to start immediately at Florida State in 2006, when he caught 28 passes for the Seminoles.
"Yeah. Again, I've still got some work to do -- a lot of work to do. But as far as being man-on and being isolated and stuff, I feel like I've got a real advantage over corners sometimes," Warren said. "I was 6-2 ½ and about 217 playing tight end. That's not really my fit. I like tight end, but in this offense, I'm a wide receiver.
"I weigh 214 today. I've lost quite a bit of weight. I feel lighter on my feet, and I feel like I can come in and out of my breaks faster. (I was) about 228, 227. Actually, at the beginning of winter workouts. It was tough, but I wanted to make that move and I knew I had to lose a little weight."
After being told to sit out Tuesday's opening practice, senior safety Demetrice Morley made his practice debut under Kiffin on Thursday.
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